Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Sewol ferry disaster: Attention growing over collection of missing bodies

The successful salvaging of the Sewol ferry is drawing attention over whether the remains of nine missing passengers will be retrieved either from within the ferry or from the seabed where the ship had laid for almost three years.

Nine of the 304 passengers who died in the April 2014 ferry disaster in remain unaccounted for. They include the bodies of four students and two teachers of Danwon High School, who were on a school trip to Jeju Island, and three other passengers.

Search operations will be conducted on the ferry after it is drained of water and oil and taken to Mokpo Port this week.

The maritime ministry and Mokpo city government have formed a team of 105 government officials and police to assist in the search.

Searches will first require sediment and floating matter inside to be removed, to clear a way into the ferry. The ministry will then disinfect and wash the ferry and take out the objects found inside. Any objects left by the victims will be handed over to the bereaved family members.

In the meantime, there is a dispute over how to conduct the search. The ministry is reviewing cutting out the passenger cabins from the ferry and putting them upright before initiating the search.

However, bereaved family members are claiming separating the cabins may make it difficult to investigate the cause of the sinking.

Lee Cheol-jo, a senior official at the ministry, said, "This method is reasonable, considering efficiency in making the searches — even if we do cut out the cabins we will conduct inspections of the ferry at the same time."

He added, "We will conduct a pre-examination of the parts that may be damaged in the process of cutting out the cabins so it does not affect the inspections."

The ministry will first search the cabins on the third and fourth decks of the ferry, where the bodies are most likely to be located, based on testimonies from survivors.

It has leased the port for the search until July 20. The ministry put up a fence 200 meters wide, 160 meters long and 3 meters high around the seabed where the Sewol sank, in order to prevent anything that could possibly have drifted out of the ferry during the salvaging from being swept away.

The Chinese consortium led by state-run Shanghai Salvage, which was in charge of recovering the sunken Sewol, will also conduct the seabed search.

The fenced area will be divided into 40 sections, and divers will search one square meter at a time. The search is expected to be tough as currents are strong at the site of the sinking. After the divers make their search, sonar will scan the area.

There is the possibility that the remains may have drifted out of the ferry, as it has been submerged for almost three years. However, considering most of the 295 recovered bodies were retrieved from within the ferry, it is likely that the unaccounted bodies will be trapped inside as well.

Tuesday 04 April 2017



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